Narsingh Deonarine's recall to the West Indies Test team to face Australia is a temporary solution to the absence of Marlon Samuels and has arrived despite continued reservations about his fitness, the coach Ottis Gibson has candidly admitted.
Deonarine acquitted himself well as a batsman in Australia in 2009-10, but after Gibson's 2010 appointment the left-hander was not offered a WICB contract due to poor fitness results. He has undergone a fresh round of testing ahead of the first Test of this series at the Kensington Oval in Barbados, and Gibson stated that Deonarine had to show visible improvement over the next three weeks.
"Partly but not entirely. I can only be honest," Gibson said when asked whether Deonarine had reached the fitness benchmark set for him. "He's someone that we need right now, we're not able to have Marlon [Samuels] in the team at the moment because Marlon's gone to the IPL as well and he's a like for like replacement for Marlon, he bowls a little bit of off spin and he bats at six, he's been the leading batsman in the regional tournament just now, and that's the role that he will play.
"With regard to his fitness, it's just an ongoing process for him, one that he has to keep on top of because I'm sure he has seen how the fitness of the team itself has improved significantly in the last 12 months. He will know that eventually if he doesn't make the necessary adjustments to his fitness that the team will move on, as all great teams do, without him.
"I'm sure he will meet those requirements because he's desperate to play cricket. I had a chat with him yesterday and he desperately wants to be here and do his thing and he had some fitness assessments yesterday, we will know the results of them later on and stuff, so hopefully if the message didn't get through in the first instance, hopefully it will get through the second time around."
Australian observers were surprised when Deonarine was discarded due to doubts about his ability to bat for long periods, after a couple of limpet-like displays against Australia in Perth during a series where the 2-0 margin arguably flattered the hosts. Gibson pointed out that Deonarine's strong results in this season's Caribbean regional competition were compelling enough to earn a recall, but had been achieved without the hundreds he expects of his batsmen.
"His quality as a batsman has never been the concern," Gibson said. "It's whether he's able to bat a day and a half, whether he's able to bat the four hours that is required at international level to make a Test hundred. His results will show he's made a lot of runs this year but he hasn't made a first-class hundred.
"At the same time he's been putting runs on the board and in a series where not a lot of batsmen put runs on the board it is hard to ignore his runs. I add to that the fact we can't have Marlon at the moment, so he fills the role that Marlon was playing."
Another batsman facing high expectations against Australia will be the gifted Darren Bravo, who has shown the potential to be the best West Indian batsman of his generation but had a halting introduction to Australian opposition in the ODI matches, losing his place. Gibson said Bravo needed to clear his head and believe in his methods, ignoring the visitors' efforts to corral him.
"He just needs to be himself," Gibson said. "I think sometimes one-day cricket lends itself to you having to go out in circumstances and play shots and maybe up the scoring rate or whatever's the case or consolidate when you've just lost a couple of wickets and stuff like that. Test cricket's very different, he goes out every day and starts over, [he should] just be himself and bat the way he batted, especially in India.
"He made a brilliant hundred in Bangladesh, but in India he was outstanding, and the Indians, from some of the fields that they set for him, it was clear they had obvious plans for him as well and he scored two Test hundreds. So he is somebody that we have a lot of confidence and belief in and somebody that will take us forward over the next couple of years.
"We're not worried about his form, we know what he's capable of and he tends to rise to the big occasion as well, so we're looking forward to seeing him bat over the next couple of weeks."